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LAA@DET: Haren strikes out seven over 5 2/3 innings

While the Angels will look to continue their postseason push this weekend in Seattle, the Mariners will be embarking on a month-long journey of playing spoiler.

Starting with this three-game set against the Angels, 24 of the Mariners' final 30 games are against playoff contenders. Friday marks the first of Seattle's nine remaining games against the Halos, while the Mariners also have six left against the Athletics and Rangers, and three against the Orioles.

Usually facing a last-place team nine times in the season's final month would be a welcome treat for a team like the Angels, but that's not necessarily the case here. After all, the Mariners enter this series having won 11 of their last 15 games and a 15-11 record overall in August.

"It's always more fun when you win," first baseman Justin Smoak said recently about the team's improved play. "Guys are expecting to win every time they come to the field. That's something we've got going on right now and we want to keep it going."

Friday's series opener will feature a matchup of veteran pitchers, Kevin Millwood and Dan Haren, and each has dealt with bouts of tough luck this season.

Not only did Haren endure his first-ever stint on the disabled list earlier this year, but he's on pace for one of the worst seasons of his career. His current 4.82 ERA would be his highest since his abbreviated debut season in 2003 when he put up a 5.02 mark in 14 starts.

Haren showed some encouraging signs his last time out, allowing just two runs while striking out seven against the Tigers, but he ran into trouble after just 5 2/3 innings.

"I felt good through the game," said Haren, who went 16-10 with a 3.17 ERA last season. "I got out of a few jams, I just couldn't get out of that last one. Obviously I would've liked to give us a little more length, but I couldn't do it."

As for Millwood, his misfortunes this season were as apparent as ever in his last outing. He entered the seventh inning with a 3-2 lead Sunday against the White Sox, but gave up a two-out, two-run homer to Tyler Flowers on the second pitch after a 6-minute rain delay to spread Diamond Dry on the infield during a downpour.

Just two batters later, the tarp was pulled onto the field and never came off, as the game was called early, giving the White Sox a 4-3 victory.

Overall, Millwood is 4-11 this year, including just 1-7 with a 4.63 ERA over his past 16 starts, but manager Eric Wedge said the numbers are extremely deceiving.

"He won the ERA title for us [in Cleveland in 2005 at 2.86] and went 9-11, so it's not his first go-round at this," Wedge said about Millwood's lack of run support this season. "I feel bad because you want your pitchers to be rewarded when they go out and pitch well. And he's pitched so much better than his record shows."

Angels: Downs return uncertain
Before Thursday's game against the Red Sox, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he was still unsure as to when reliever Scott Downs would be rejoining the team.

The left-hander was placed on the family medical emergency list prior to the team's game on Monday against the Red Sox. The list doesn't allow players to miss more than seven games, so Downs would have to be back with the team by Tuesday at the latest.

Asked if Downs could be available for the weekend series against the Mariners, Scioscia said: "We'll see. It's going to be one step at a time with Downs. We'll just see whenever he's ready to go."

• Mike Trout's first-inning run on Thursday was his 103rd on the season, tying the Angels' rookie record. Devon White had the same in 159 games in 1987. Trout did it in 108.

Mariners: Saunders set to return Friday
Though he had hoped to return earlier this week against the Twins, outfielder Michael Saunders is now expecting to return to the lineup in Friday's opener against the Halos.

Saunders has missed six games since straining his right groin muscle last Friday in a ninth-inning outfield collision against the White Sox. Saunders was close to playing Thursday, but Wedge decided to give him one more day off.

"We just feel like he needs a day of rest, he's been pushing so hard to come back," Wedge said prior to Thursday's 5-4 victory. "The best opportunity for him to play in the outfield and play an entire game would be to give him some time today. We plan on him being in the outfield [Friday]."

Worth noting
• Angels outfielder Torii Hunter is 17-for-42 [.405] with five doubles, two homers and 13 RBIs in his career against Millwood.

• Haren has recorded more wins (11) and strikeouts (120) against Seattle than against any other team. Overall, he is 11-6 with a 2.69 ERA in 21 career starts against the Mariners.

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